The Most Underrated Team in the ACC is…

Last week, we discussed the teams we feel have been overrated by the college football prognosticators so far this offseason. This week, we explore the underrated teams. TSS Associate Editors Bart Doan and Terry Johnson join staff writer Kevin Causey and special rotating guests in our weekly roundtable discussing all things college football.

In this roundtable, our focus returns to the ACC. Earlier this offseason we discussed multiple ACC topics, including players to watch, the most improved teams, and who will win the conference championship. Last week, we looked at who has been overrated. This week, it’s time to look at who is being underrated heading into 2015.  Joining us in this conversation is TSS writer and the man behind The Next Wave Football, Ryan Palencer:


Question: The coaches poll has been released, other outlets are releasing their Top 25 polls (SI, Athlon), and we are in the middle of releasing our poll.  Which ACC team is the most underrated heading into the 2015 season?

Ryan Palencer:
On Twitter @RyanPalencer

The most underrated team in the ACC is clearly North Carolina.

The Tar Heels bring back an incredibly talented bunch on offense, highlighted by quarterback Marquise Williams. Coming off setting a school record for total yards, Williams eyes even bigger things in 2015 as the squad returns 10 starters on that side of the ball. Landon Turner and Jon Heck on the right side of the offensive line create a strength there. The line will be opening holes for a variety of skill sets in the running back committee style. North Carolina also has a do-everything wide receiver corps that should give Williams plenty of opportunities to top last year’s mark. One of these wideouts, Quinshad Davis, has the makings of one of the top targets in the conference.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Tar Heels welcome new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. This cannot be a more needed addition, as the Tar Heel defense struggled tremendously last season in every possible area. The change to the 4-3 defense can’t hurt as well. Another key is that North Carolina is able to avoid Florida State and Clemson this season.

Bart Doan:
On Twitter @TheCoachBart

I rarely have any sort of pulse on who folks are rating where, so anything I say is sort of backed up by the logic that I don’t really pay a whole lot of mind to other folks’ opinions, but it just feels as though Louisville hasn’t been talked about much, and the program has reached a point where you can reasonably expect annual success on a national level.

The Cards acclimated themselves halfway decently in their first year in the ACC, considering it was post Teddy Bridgewater as well. Year two should only provide more comfort and clarity for them. This isn’t to say they don’t have issues. Last season was one of the few in his career when quarterback play under a Bobby Petrino-led team seemed spotty.

That’s one hell of a question mark. In spite of losing their top three wide receivers, they inherit transfers from Texas A&M and UAB and figure to wind up okay there. The running game looks good. The schedule looks a bit salty.

This year’s ACC is one that doesn’t feel like it automatically has any great teams, unlike the last two years. It certainly provides the opportunity for Louisville to plant its flag in the conference and be a factor in the championship race, and ultimately, everything that goes along with that.

Kevin Causey:
On Twitter @CFBZ

I believe the ACC is the weakest of the Power 5 conferences. The teams toward the top of the conference are strong, but overall the conference is filled with mediocrity. Will one of the teams stuck in the middle (N.C. State, North Carolina, Boston College, Pitt, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Miami, Syracuse) step up this season? I don’t think they will.

When I look at who is being underrated, I look at past success and where teams are being slotted this season. Clemson seems to be everyone’s darling this year. If Deshaun Watson stays healthy, the Tigers could have a very good year. If he doesn’t then they won’t sniff the ACC championship.

Just two years ago, Florida State won the national championship; last season the Noles lost just one game. This year they don’t even seem to be in the national championship conversation. There have been offseason issues in Tallahassee, but they are still the most talented team in the ACC.

Florida State owns the league after winning three straight ACC championships. Many seem to be picking a changing of the guard this year (or at least FSU taking a step back), but I won’t believe it until it happens. Pencil FSU in as the team I believe is being underrated the most heading into 2015.

Terry Johnson:
On Twitter @SectionTPJ

Duke is the most underrated team in the conference.

Despite winning 19 games over the past two seasons, the Blue Devils still aren’t getting the respect they deserve. This was evident in the ACC Preseason Media Poll, where the voters picked Duke to finish fourth in the Coastal Division.

The Devils will finish higher than that this year. Sure, Anthony Boone departs, but Thomas Sirk is more than capable of replacing him. And, while the offensive line loses 95 career starts with the losses of Laken Tomlinson and Takoby Cofield, its worth noting that the last time Duke had to replace that much experience, the Devils allowed four fewer sacks than they did before.

In other words: don’t expect a dip in production from the Duke offense this fall. It’ll be every bit as productive as it’s been the past two years, especially with the return of tight end Braxton Deaver, who caught 46 balls for 600 yards in 2013 before missing last season due to injury.

Does this offensive firepower mean that the Devils will win the Coastal Division?

Probably not.

However, it does mean that the media should consider Duke as a contender for the division title rather than an also-ran.